NEW DELHI/AIZAWL, Jan 15 (IANS): Union Home Minister Amit Shah will meet the leaders of 35,000 tribal refugees to resolve the over 22-years-old imbroglio as the migrants are averse to return to their homeland in Mizoram unless their basic demands are met, officials and refugee leaders said on Wednesday.
An 11 member delegation of the Mizoram Bru Displaced People's Forum (MBDPF), the apex body of the migrants, left here on Wednesday for New Delhi to attend the crucial meeting which top officials of the Union Home Ministry and the Mizoram and Tripura governments will attend.
"We want to return to our homes in Mizoram, but without ensuring our safety, security and livelihood, how can we go back amidst uncertainty," Bruno Msha, General Secretary of the MBDPF told IANS just before leaving for the national capital.
He said: "The quadripartite meeting in the presence of the Union Home Minister is likely to be held on Thursday. Government should consider the future of our next generations. There are more than 7,000 children in the refugee camps, what would be their future ?"
Msha accompanied by MBDPF President A. Sawibunga and other refugee leaders said that the displaced tribal people are willing to go back to their villages in Mizoram, but the Mizoram government is too rigid to solve their basic issues permanently resulting in the failure of previous repatriation process.
Msha said : "Now we want that the Dampa Tiger Reserve Sanctuary in Mizoram be de-reserved so that tribal refugees are rehabilitated there.
"Our other demands are a development package by the Union DoNER (Development of North Eastern Region) and Tribal Affairs Ministries for long-lasting and all-round development of the backward Reang tribals and providing security to the tribals by a Central para-military force."
In Aizawl, Mizoram Chief Minister Zoramthanga said that a quadripartite agreement would be signed in New Delhi on Thursday for a long-lasting solution of the Reang tribals issue, locally called "Bru".
"In the presence of the Union Home Minister, the agreement would be signed between the officials of the Union Home Ministry, Tripura and Mizoram governments and leaders of the MBDPF.
"Tripura Chief Minister Biplab Kumar Deb and the Mizoram Chief Minister were invited by the home ministry to remain present in the crucial meeting," Zoramthanga said while addressing the meeting of party leaders and members of the ruling Mizo National Front (MNF).
Over 35,000 Reang tribal refugees, including women and children, have been sheltered in seven relief camps in northern Tripura since October 1997 after they fled their villages in western Mizoram in the wake of communal tension.
Meanwhile, the Tripura government's Additional Secretary L.T. Darlong said that the state government has extended the period of supply of food and relief to the refugees up to March.
A top official of the Tripura CM's Secretariat told IANS that Chief Minister Deb recently wrote to Home Minister Amit Shah to sanction funds to rehabilitate Mizoram's tribal refugees in Tripura.
The official refusing to disclose his identity said that Deb in his letter to Shah said that of the 35,000 tribal refugees comprising 5,400 families, 400 to 500 families could be settled in each sub-division in Tripura. The opposition Congress in Tripura on Tuesday threatened to launch an agitation if the tribal refugees are not repatriated within a month.
The Union Home Ministry through the Tripura government has spent over Rs 900 crore to provide relief to the refugees during the past over 22 years.
A Home Department official in Aizawl said the Union Home Ministry recently sanctioned Rs 350 crore for rehabilitation of the tribals in Mizoram, after completion of the repatriation process.
According to a Tripura Relief Department official, after the four-partite agreement in Delhi on July 3, 2018, the stalled repatriation of refugees resumed on October 3 with arrangements made by the Tripura and Mizoram governments.
Only a few hundred immigrants have returned to their villages in Mizoram, after the agreement as the majority of the tribals are reluctant to go back.
The Delhi agreement had finalised a six-point benefit package for each refugee family. It included Rs 4 lakh financial aid, monthly allowance of Rs 5,000, Rs 1.5 lakh for building a house and free ration for two years.
But the refugees subsequently refused the package, demanding security by central paramilitary forces and allotment of five hectares of land to each refugee family, besides the formation of an Autonomous District Council (ADC).
"The repatriation process could not be carried out properly due to protests and obstacles put up by a section of refugees, mostly women," Sub-Divisional Magistrate of Kanchanpur Abeda Nanda Baidya told IANS.
The refugees had been demanding an ADC for the Reang tribals, re-arrangement of resettlement areas, liberty to each family to choose their area of resettlement, deployment of central forces for the protection of the repatriated refugees and cash assistance.The refugees hail from three districts in Mizoram -- Mamit, Lunglei and Kolasib -- spanning across nine of the state's 40 Assembly constituencies.